Misfit

The ring of fire crackled with ferocious intensity as the flames reached ever higher to lick the night sky. Lit from below, the charge of dark faces looked even more maniacal as they hungrily surged through the raging magical inferno that had claimed many of their endless numbers. But not nearly enough…

They advanced in waves…

Bolt after bolt of magical energy flew from his hands. Every impact with its intended target set off a brilliant flash of light that illimunated the surroundings, revealing the neverending thrum of dark bodies rushing forward. His brow was slick with the sweat of exertion, as he tapped yet deeper within himself for the willpower to stand his ground against the impossible odds.

But they didn’t stop…

Waving his right hand in a wide arc, he sent forth a dozen golden lances of pure energy to impale a cluster of demons, sending them backward with the force of impact. Another wave of magic rolled forward to vanquish a wall of fiends that was gaining ground. All the while, he strained to keep a forcefield erected to hold the terrors at bay as they tried to strike at his flanks. They were relentless…

Three demons took the place for every one that fell; his body grew more weary with every spell he cast; and as the battle continued, the village he defended threatened ever more to be overrun.

Through the smoke of sorcerous flames, and covered in the ashes of the enemy, he drew his blade as even more approached. With skill as adept as his arcane mastery, his sword cut a swathe of ruin through the ranks of abominations.

A savage cry ripped itself from his throat. He used his anger as a weapon – harnessing it, channeling it – and allowed it to fuel every volley of battle magic that he hurled at the damned in desperation. The hordes suffered great loss as he decimated them. Until… his attacks became weaker, shrinking to a smaller area of effect with every strike. Scores of them filled the spaces where the sorcery once touched. And steadily, he felt his legs give way beneath his exhausted frame.

And then they blurred past him…

One by one, nightmare upon nightmare, the devils jumped his magical barriers, and raced on toward the panic-stricken village. As he fought on, standing alone against the dark tide, he could but only watch as the spawn of hell ran past his guard. He could only listen, as the heart-wrenching screams filled the night in a deadening crescendo. The sound washed over his mind in its desperate plight as the demons eradicated the village, leaving nothing but death and destruction in their wake…

The screams…those horrible, hopeless screams… becoming louder… and louder —

He bolted upright, awaking from the nightmare. Cold sweat clung to him as his body trembled at the soul-scarring images that vividly flooded his memory. He gasped for breath between the racking sobs, his eyes flooded by welling tears that came of their own accord. “I couln’t …protect them… I-“

Beaten, broken, and burdened by his memories, the guilt-ridden mage mulled over the pain of old wounds. And elsewhere within the building, another soul was wrestling with his past… among the motley assemblage of misfits who graced the inn as its patrons…

Inktober #18

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